by Kyle Mittan
When Darryl Robert Schoon finished writing his first and only novel to date, he didn’t have any plans to distribute it to the masses. And, at least for a few years, it wasn’t distributed anywhere.
Schoon, who actually has spent most of his career as an author writing nonfiction books about finance and spirituality, recently published You Can’t Always Get What You Want under SchoonWorks, his own publishing company. He had finished writing the book nearly two decades ago in 1996.
The novel’s storyline follows a narrator working a summer job at a biological sciences lab at UC Davis. A man who drops acid frequently, the beginning of the novel sees the narrator having a one-way conversation with a monkey.
“Who do you think you are anyhow?” he hears the monkey say during a trip. “At least I know I’m in a cage.”
The novel then follows the narrator as he gives a beautiful woman a ride home. Much to his surprise, the woman turns out to be a lesbian, and her partner is the narrator’s former lawyer. The book is filled with further plot twists like these, and the message the monkey gives at the start serves as the story’s central theme, Schoon said.
“The book is sort of a metaphysical thing about free will,” he said. “You think you are making choices, you think life is open, but at least I know I’m in a cage.”
Toward the end of the book, Schoon added, the narrator begins to question how much free will he’s really had his entire life.
While You Can’t Always Get What You Want remains the fictional black sheep amid Schoon’s collection of nonfiction how-tos, the novel was actually Schoon’s first work as an author, and a book that he said was extremely easy to write.
“The book was really interesting, it just wrote itself for me,” he said. “I had never written a novel before, and the image of the monkey came to me.”
Schoon said he had hoped that image wasn’t the foretelling of a book, knowing how much a work a book would take. But a friend urged Schoon to publish it after seeing pieces of the book as it came together.
“But publishing a book yourself in 1994 is not easy,” Schoon said. “Right now it’s easy, you just go to Amazon and create space and load it up and there you are.”
Using the penname Leonard Elmore (an obvious play on well-known short story author Elmore Leonard) and the alternate title It Was Only Gas, Schoon had only a few copies published before shutting the project down, realizing he didn’t have any method to distribute the book and therefore couldn’t justify printing the few thousand copies it would take to make the investment worthwhile.
Much to Schoon’s surprise, he checked his mailbox months later to find a handful of orders for the book from libraries around the country. Additionally, a man had placed an order for the book at an Indianapolis bookstore after hearing someone raving about it in Japan. Schoon later realized that he had given his book to a friend who had some show-business ties who had taken it to Asia.
“So that was more mystery about this crazy book that never went anywhere,” Schoon said.
Fast forward to 2008, Schoon had published five books, all of which had been marketed to various extents, and developed a reputation as a speaker on economics in the process. One of those books was the mystery novel that had served as the pseudo-start to his career as an author.
“So that’s how I became a writer,” Schoon joked. “Not the normal way.”
You Can’t Always Get What You Want is available on Amazon both in book and Kindle form, as well as from Schoon’s own website.